BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Lacombe County has been working to improve their environmental impact and accountability, measuring their success year over year through State of Environment Reports.
The County first published this report in 2013 as a reflection on their efforts and status in 2012.
The study encompasses research in County affairs, agricultural practices and initiatives pertaining to environmental practices.
Monica Boudreault, Lacombe County environmental coordinator, said the study is an active guide to helping the County develop sustainable practices and environmentally friendly operations.
“The State of the Environment study helps us to see what’s happening in our community and where there are changes to be made or that have been made,” Boudreault explained.
“It helps us to identify issues from air quality to water quality to biodiversity needs, and then to adjust our practices in the future.”
According to Boudreault, one of the main issues identified in the study was air quality, specifically levels of particulate matter in the air.
“Many people are aware that Central Alberta has an issue with fine particulate matter in the air. Lacombe County in particular is doing some major things in-house to address what we can do, and has made changes in terms of our fleet vehicles and other initiatives,” she said.
Lacombe County has also previously addressed this issue through the Idle Reduction Initiative in partnership with Parkland Management Zone.
Boudreault explained the report also checks on external organizations to gain insight into what other groups or organizations are doing to lessen their environmental impact.
For example, the Sylvan Lake Management Committee began a program called ‘Take it Off’ where the organization removes ice fishing huts on Sylvan Lake, leftover until the spring.
As the ice melts, these huts harm the wildlife habitat.
“This program was successfully implemented in Sylvan Lake and has since been adapted and adopted by Lacombe County for the management of ice fishing huts left on Buffalo Lake and Gull Lake,” Boudreault said.
She added that something Lacombe County will continue to keep an eye on is the issue of invasive species in local lakes. Currently, there are no invasive species that have been identified, but the County will simply continue to take precautions in terms of educating residents and managing use on local lakes.
Officials say the State of the Environment Report is an important tool in collecting data on the current state of the county environment, pressures impacting the environment and the effect of management actions on environmental conditions in the local area.
Boudreault said the document has indicated some successes within the County, and helps to outline future environmental management practices.
Direct successes can be seen through programs such as the Environmental Improvement Grant Program, which saw grants awarded to four community groups in 2015. Boudreault said this program is a major success and positive piece to have been identified in the report.
“We’ve done a lot of great things in-house because we want to be a positive example for people who live in our community,” she said.
“We hope producers and residents of Lacombe County see what we’re doing, and see it as an example to follow in their our community roles or on their land. We hope people can help us spread the word about different practices that can be used to reduce our impact on the environment.”
Boudreault added she is hopeful that eventually projects will spread beyond the borders of Lacombe County as the actions become more visible and other groups and counties take notice. For instance, Lacombe County is the first in Central Alberta to implement a reconstructed wetland in recovery of land that was a gravel pit.
From low-emission vehicles and energy efficient practices in offices, to larger projects such as limiting idling and developing habitat spaces, Boudreault said everyone can play a part in safe environmental practices and that no positive act is too small.